Vaytsekhovskaya's interview with Gauthier `How can you control love?' for sport-express.ru
His list of achievements is quite unusual: prior to the SLC games he was coaching the Canadians Sale/Peletier, who became the 2001 World Champions and 2002 Olympic Champions. He worked with the European medalist Zagorska/Suidek for five years. In 2012 he coached the first Japanese pair to medal at the Worlds. His Canadian pupils Duhamel/Radford took bronze in Worlds 2013
Richard the looser
EV: Richard, seems the best coaches come out from a looser athletes.
RG: I guess. I was skating pairs till 1982. I retire for a silly reason really: my partner, who was 16y.o back then started gaining weight and I realized we can't aim for anything serious. Perhaps it was also the fact I really wanted to coach, not to skate.
Now I have a whole team working with me in Montreal. It's Bruno and Julie Marcotte - he used to represent Canada in pairs, she was an ice dancer. Another ice dance coach works with me for 30 years now, ever since I started coaching. So even if I'm away there is a team
EV: Canada is one of the not so many countries whose skaters became world champions several times. How popular is the pairs skating in Canada now among the athletes?
RG: Good question. On one hand the pairs skating is quite popular, as figure skating in general. I can't recall a pair making it to the national team without a competition. on the other hand there weren't so many pairs competing in the last nationals. I'd say it's not the best times for canadian pair skating right now. Perhaps we just lack the coaches. Of course the situation in Canada is far better than, say, in Japan, where there are no pairs coaches at all or France, where sometimes people who never skated pairs work with the pairs. But if you count how many coaches work with the single skaters in Canada I think it'll be more than 5000.
I know the situation probably better than anyone else. First of all I've been giving coaching seminars which are organized by the ISU. Secondly I worked with the athletes from different countries, more than that I worked with their coaches: helped teaming u p the pairs, explained the specifics of working with the pairs.
Love slows down
EV: I know the French team James/Cipre who were sensational last worlds asked for your help
RG: James/Cipre were skating in Canada for a year, then they went back home and right before the Worlds they asked for my help again - they had some problems with their elements. I was helping them over the skype - it's easy now. I sometimes think it's what I'd like to do when I'm old. Working with the pairs on a daily basis is very interesting, but it's a very tough job. Not only you have to teach the people the right technique so they will not kill each other, but also you have to develop their ability to communicate. When you work with a pair you teach them life. How to talk, how to express yourself without hurting the other partner. You can say `you throw me wrongly' and it'll cause a fight, you can put it as `you know, I'm having a hard time landing when you throw me that way'
With the singles it's one on one. With the pair you are a part of a triangular. I beg my pairs `please ,don't fall in love at least while you are skating'. Otherwise the problems escalate: all the personal stuff comes with them to the ice. But how can you control love?
EV: I.e. the personal relationship between the partners are a disadvantage?
RG: 50/50. When people are in a relationship they are more patient with each other, but then the fights are deeper and longer.
EV: Right after the SLC I spoke to one of the Russian coaches about Sale/Peletier. He said your skaters look happy on the ice, which is so appealing and one wants to look at them skate, rather than judge. But really, looking happy while skating the LP at the Olympics?
RG: I agree. Figure skating is acting as well. A theatre. When the skaters skate to a `Love Story' but can't show it on the ice they shoudlnt' even attempt it
When the coach wants to show the real emotions on the ice you have to pay attention to the smallest details: how do they hold their hands, where do they look. With Sale/Peletier it was easier - they were a pair off the ice as well. Takahashi/Tran weren't, but they had the same `chemistry'
It's easier to gain such an effect when using a known piece of music, where the story is obvious. It's even easier skating to a music with lyrics - the story is just there. I'd love to see where will the pair skating go after the Sochi games when the vocals will be allowed.
EV: Was it possible to prevent the break up of your Japanese pair?
RG: I know Japan were trying to find a solution so that Takahashi/TRan could skate in Sochi Olympics. The only solution for Mervin to gain a Japanese citizenship was to marry Narumi. I was strongly against it. I said starting a family just for the games is nonsense. There is a life after the sport and you shouldn't ruin it in advance.
How to create a pair in 3 years
EV: Did the work become more instersting with CoP?
RG: Sure. Previously I had to come to terms with the judges not understanding how complicated the elements are. Mainly they only noticed the jumps and the throws. The lifts, death spirals, spins - all were just a nice addition, but they were not judged by their difficulty but rather `did/did not'. So from the technical point of view CoP is a huge step forward. All the athletes understand it: if your programme is complicated the mark will be higher. There is a detailed list what and how you have to perform to gain the highest levels. I'm still baffled by the second mark though. It does not always reflect what it should
But I'll admit: I was happy Duhamel/Radford's marks went up all the time last season. They've been skating for just 3 years together.
EV: For how long should thye skate to become a pair?
RG: It differs. I think 3 years is just the time that is needed to create a pair. When, say, you don't need to look back to know where the partner is. Of course it's only about the athletes who can already skate and jump. It was the same with Sale/Peletier - they became a pair in their 3rd season. First season is usually spent just to understand whether the skaters can skate together. During the 2nd you can work on the pairs elements, though not very complicated ones. The 3rd - that's when the work begins, when you know how fast will the skaters be able to implement what you offer, how will they react, how will they behave during the competitions. I love starting working with the pairs where the skaters are 12-13y.o. There is nothing to change, and, besides, that's the age when thye don't yet argue with the coach.
How to find a female partner
EV: How do you decide who to accept in your group?
RG: First of all I look at their parents. Especially the girls. In a way it's a pleasure working with the girls - if the guy can't land his jump he just gives up the figure skating altogether. The girl will repeat the jump a 1000 times, till she learns it. But there is a different problem: if the parents are tall the odds the girl will be tall as well and all my hard work will be wasted. But even if her parents are tiny you can't really tell how will she turn out to be. Hence the coaches love working with the Asian girls. She might grow a bit, but she won't have large hips and other body parts.
So here is the challenge: to find a female skater, who can jump, is not afraid of hights and throws, one that will not be taller than 5f and can control her weight. Another problem is that they can't always trian in their own town. For example Takahashi had to move to Canada and stayed here for 5 years. Such a move is a huge sacrifice for the whole family.
How to capture the crowd
EV: Do you think Duhamel/Radford can fight for a gold in Sochi?
EV: Just like that? No?
RG: We will try ver hard, but I know how figure skating works, besides , the games will take place in Russia and the local pair are the current world champions. I hope Duhamel/Radford will fight for a bronze: there will be enough contenders for the gold without them. Though there will be a fight for the other medals as well. They have a lot of work to do.
EV: For example?
RG: Duhamel is very short and Radford is very tall. It is an advantage in the lifts and a disadvantage on the throws. So we work a lot on the throws to be bigger. Their jumps are great -we added the 3lutz to the programme, which no one else does. We are also limited choreography-wise: `Love Story' by Duhamel/Radford will not look plausible even if they were in love.
EV: Hence you prefered `Alice in the Wonderland'?
RG: Right. That we can sell the crowd. `Love Story' - not